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davegravy

Can't break 550F for neapolitan pizza

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I took my first stab at making Neapolitan pizza, and figured my BJ was the best place to cook it.

 

I cleared out my firebox, removed the ashtray completely, opened both vents fully, made sure there was no airflow obstructions anywhere. I carefully picked through a fresh bag of KJ lump for the biggest pieces I could find, built a big mound of large and medium only sized charcoal lumps, putting largest on the bottom.  I lit the charcoal in 5 places, and I followed John's youtube advice on setting up grates, deflectors, spacers, and pizza stone. I left the lid open for a good 45 minutes to preheat, the fire was the most roaring I've had, with flames wrapping around the outside of the pizza stone and extending upwards past it 8 inches or more. I closed the lid and watched the temp for about another 30 minutes. It stalled at 500 and started to drop.

 

I had an idea, I grabbed my wife's hairdryer (don't tell her!) and put it on max blowing up the intake. I got about another 50 degrees out of it, which I lost quickly as soon as I turned the dryer off. It wasn't really hot enough for Neapolitan, I gather closer to 8 or 900 is ideal, and John seems to get that in his vid. 

 

I've never seen this before when smoking at low temps which I normally do, but besides the blue smoke roaring out the top exhaust, there was a grey smoke coming from all around the kamado. At first I thought it was steam because we've had some rain. Then I realized it was smoke. Could a leak prevent me from reaching max temps? On closer inspection it wasn't the gasket but was coming from the bottom of the black metal band that wraps around the bottom ceramic piece, and to which the side tables are attached. It seemed to be leaking out around most of the whole circumference. I noticed the size of the gap between the red ceramic and the band was highly inconsistent, very small beneath the side tables and much larger at the front where the handle is. I didn't look at the back. It's dark now but I'll try to post some pics tomorrow.

 

Also as I was using the hair dryer to force more air through the intake, I noticed that smoke was billowing out the intake (!!). If air's coming out all the holes of the smoker, how the heck is it getting in? So confused.

 

Please help, I'm really interested in doing some high heat cooking on this thing.

 

Cheers,

 

Dave

 

 

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2 minutes ago, John Setzler said:

Not enough charcoal in the grill.

 

Hi John! I mean I had it pretty full. At least up to the level the heat deflectors would normally sit at in the lower position.  What's a good fill line for a cook like this?

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3 minutes ago, Stile 88 said:

How much ash do you have at bottom of grill

You mean now that I'm done or before I started? 

 

Before I started I cleaned out all the ash and even removed the tray to maximize airflow.

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5 minutes ago, davegravy said:

You mean now that I'm done or before I started? 

 

Before I started I cleaned out all the ash and even removed the tray to maximize airflow.

Well if you were all clean in grill john is for sure right on not enough charcoal 

 

Just a stab in dark could the charcoal have been wet or damp if so that could of been the issue 

 

I might try different charcoal to see if i got same results

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Just now, Stile 88 said:

Well if you were all clean in grill john is for sure right on charcoal 

 

Just a stab in dark could the charcoal have been wet or damp if so that could of been the issue 

 

Hmm, don't think so. I opened a fresh bag that I just bought. 

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1 minute ago, davegravy said:

 

Hmm, don't think so. I opened a fresh bag that I just bought. 

 

So those are the usual suspects and you say on your end everything is good 

 

The fire grate i assume that was clean as well and nothing was obstructing the holes 

 

After 45 min actually before i would of closed the top vent to maybe half to contain the heat i bet you would of got to temp

 

 

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Just now, John Setzler said:

Somethign doesn't add up then.  My video above is NOT with heat deflectors and a pizza stone in.  It will take significantly longer to heat the dome to 550 with those two things in place.

 

 

Understood, and I've done direct heat cooking where I've seen 600-700 pretty quickly - I know my grill can do that. I was just comparing my charcoal fill level to what you had there. How high should I fill my charcoal when doing pizza cooks, and how long do you estimate it takes to get to 8-900F with the pizza setup?

 

Also, check out this new band of dirt/soot that just formed around the outside of my grill where the smoke was pouring out. Is this normal? Any kind of a clue?

image.thumb.png.f1ab0c9b1ff3a57cb7704c989ee7abe0.png

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27 minutes ago, Stile 88 said:

 

So those are the usual suspects and you say on your end everything is good 

 

The fire grate i assume that was clean as well and nothing was obstructing the holes 

 

After 45 min actually before i would of closed the top vent to maybe half to contain the heat i bet you would of got to temp

 

 

Just to clarify, you're suggesting I could close the top vent a bit to trap the heat... It would ultimately make temps go down but maybe I'd get a short spike from the heat trap - long enough to cook pizzas? Interesting idea.

 

Has anyone else besides John done 900F pizza cooks? Anyone done it on a Big Joe? Am I seeking the impossible? 

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40 minutes ago, KismetKamado said:

I’m confused about the leaving the lid open for 45 minutes statement. 

 

I read somewhere that to get good high heat cooks you should leave the lid open for a good while for maximum airflow, so that's what I did. You think I should go lid closed, vents full open more or less right away?

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2 hours ago, davegravy said:

I left the lid open for a good 45 minutes to preheat, the fire was the most roaring I've had, with flames wrapping around the outside of the pizza stone and extending upwards past it 8 inches or more. I closed the lid and watched the temp for about another 30 minutes. It stalled at 500 and started to drop.

How did the fuel look? Was it starting to go out with only a few pieces still burning? I have a Big Joe Classic with an ash basket. I have only had one case of "can't pass 500 F." It was using premium, big-block charcoal. For high heat, you need surface area. I regularly do 750 F pizza cooks. Here's what I do. 

 

My ideal charcoal pieces are hamburger/chicken wing size, but for these hot fires, I also dump in a bunch of little stuff, but not powder, filling in the gaps with loose stuff. I dig down in the center and light from the bottom, close the lid and open the vents wide for about 30 minutes before adding deflectors and stone. I then close the top vent as needed to stabilize temperature, collecting hot air in the dome. Takes another 30 minutes to get the stone heat soaked, an hour total to a stable 750 F. Lasts about 60-90 minutes before the fire dies. 

 

I also find that mesquite charcoal runs hotter than oak, but either works for 750 F. KJ Big Block, not so much unless you break it down (still have a bag...).

 

HAve fun,

Frank

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